K-12 Transition Resources

The transition from high school to college brings significant life changes for many students. The transition may come with additional factors to consider for students with disabilities and those seeking to utilize accommodations. For students who received disability-related services in K-12, it is important to know that the applicable federal laws and students’ legal rights and responsibilities are different in the postsecondary environment than in the K-12 setting.

Additional Resources: 


Responsibilities Related to Accommodations in the Postsecondary Environment 

Students, the AEC, and instructors/staff play distinct roles in the determination and implementation of reasonable accommodations for disability in the postsecondary environment.

Student AEC Instructor/Staff
  • Self-identify to AEC for disability-related services. 
  • Provide supporting documentation of disability. 
  • Request accommodations and notify instructors of accommodations in a timely manner. 
  • Notify AEC if they encounter additional access barriers or accommodation issues.
  • Assess students' requests for accommodations. 
  • Provide information about policies, procedures, rights, and responsibilities. 
  • Facilitate appropriate accommodations through collaboration with instructors and other staff.
  • Address accommodation implementation issues.


  • Provide AEC-approved accommodations.
  • Maintain student confidentiality. 
  • Contact AEC if they have concerns about the reasonableness of an accommodation.



Differences between K-12 and Postsecondary Education 

The following outlines major differences between disability-related support and services in secondary education (high school) and postsecondary education (college).

  Secondary Education POSTSECONDARY Education
Federal Laws Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
Purpose of Legislation

To ensure all eligible students with disabilities have a free appropriate public education (FAPE), including special education and related services. 

To ensure that no otherwise qualified person with a disability be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any program or activity provided by any public institution or entity (504/ADA). 

To ensure that no otherwise qualified person with a disability be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any program or activity provided by any public institution or entity (504/ADA). 
Documentation School districts are responsible for providing trained personnel to assess eligibility and provide evaluation at no cost to students. Documentation focuses on determining eligibility for services.  Student is responsible for obtaining documentation from a professional who is qualified to assess their disability. Documentation must include information on specific functional limitations and demonstrate need for accommodations. 
Identification Student is identified by the school as needing services. School is primarily responsible for arranging accommodations. Student must self-identify to AEC. Student is responsible for requesting accommodations and notifying AEC if there are issues with implementation of accommodations. 
Confidentiality Parents/guardians have access to student records and are often active participants in the accommodations process. Student information is protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). 
Instruction Teachers may modify and/or alter pace or content of curriculum. Schools may need to design special instruction for individual students.  Instructors cannot modify and/or alter pace or content of curriculum. Accommodations (not special education) are provided so students with disabilities can access the same courses as students without disabilities. 
Assessments/ Exams IEPs and 504 plans may include modifications to testing and/or grading. Make-up exams may be available to ensure content mastery.  Modifications to testing and/or grading are not appropriate. Accommodations to ensure equal access (e.g. extended time, reduced distraction environment, etc.) are provided when reasonable. Make-up exams are typically not an option. 
Study Expectations

Teachers may remind students of due dates and responsibilities. Tutoring and study support may be included in an IEP or 504 plan. Studying outside of class may or may not be required. 

Assimilation/consolidation of information is generally provided by teachers (e.g. study guides). Structure is provided by the school and teachers. 

Students are expected to read and consult the course syllabus and utilize their own systems for keeping track of due dates/ responsibilities, organizing their time, and initiating and completing schoolwork. 

Tutoring is not available through AEC, but available to all students through the Tutoring and Academic Engagement Center. Students can expect to study 2-3 hours outside of class for each hour spent in class. Students are responsible for assimilating/consolidating information. Students function autonomously.